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Musicology in India 


N. RAMANATHAN 





ment of musicology and its present state. General observations will be made on 

the areas of music that Indian musicology has chosen to take under its purview 
and the areas it has missed out or chosen to ignore, and the directions the subject has taken 
in recent times, 

The earliest writings on music are found in two languages: Samskrta and Tamil. 
Samskrta was the language of the nobles and scholars in most of the regions of India, 
while Tamil was the language of the South, especially the south-eastern part known as 
Dravida country. It is in these two languages that most of the primary sources are found 
till the [4th century a.p. After this, writings in various regional languages are seen to be 
sprouting though Samskrta continued to dominate till the 18th century. 

It is very difficult to make a purely chronological survey of musicological writings. It 
is easier to approach the subject system by system. For one thing, chronology in Indian 
history is quite elusive. It is often difficult to arrive at even a rough date of the composi- 
tion of a treatise, and sometimes even of the author. And Indian music (even if there were 
one such hypothetical single musical system) does not have a linear straight-line devel- 
opment in history. Many streams of musical systems existed; little is known about their 
time of origin and extinction. Some overlap others in time, some stay independent of one 
another, and some cross one another’s path; sometimes the impact of one is seen on the 
other. 

We are able to roughly identify four systems' before we come to the modern period. 
These are: Samagana; Marga; Desi; and Tamil. Several treatises belonging to each sys- 
tem are still available and some deal with more than one system. The Tamil tradition 
seems to have had an origin and development independent of the other three although, at 
One stage, the influence of the Desi system on the Tamil is quite apparent. 

A question that could have been raised at the beginning of this essay is “What was the 
term used to denote musicology in the languages of India?” Getting to know the terms 
used for signifying concepts can help in understanding the thinking of a tradition and of 
an age. The common suffix parallel to “-ology” in the Samskrta tradition has been 

Sastra” Meaning “the science of’. We come across Silpa-Sastra (Science of Sculpture) , 
Artha-Sastra (Science of Wealth ie., Economics), Alarnkara-Sastra (Science of Figures 
of speech i.e., Poetics), etc. So the “ology” part presents no problems. It is only for the 
Word “music” that it is difficult to find a single word which has been consistently used in 
the Samskrta tradition. 


T= essay is an attempt at presenting a general account of the historical develop- 


Sangeet Natak No. 110 : October — December 1993 


32 N. RAMANATHAN 


Sdmagana belongs to the body of sacred literature called the Veda-s. Three Vedas were 
chanted to a limited range of musical notes. Sama-veda, the fourth Veda, did not repre- 
sent any body of litereature as such but was actually the singing of the verses from the 
other Veda-s, especially the Rg-veda. The term gana suffixed to the term Sama signified 
the singing of the Sima-veda. But the science of Samagana was not called gana-Sastra. It 
also went under the name Siksa, which is the general name for the literature dealing with 
the phonetics of the Veda-s. 

In the Tamil tradition the word for music was Isai and the science of music was called 
Isai Hakkanam, literally the grammar of music. , 

In the other systems, namely Marga and Desi, we find, on the one hand, books dealing 
exclusively with music and, on the other, books describing music within the sphere of the 
theatre which is their subject. The theatre tradition in the Marga system was called Natya. 
While the term Gina associated with the rendering of Sama-veda continued to be used, 
another term Gandharva came into use to indicate music, especially music as an indepen- 
dent art, performed outside Natya. The science of Gandharva was callled Gandharva- 
Sistra. 

The theatre tradition in the Desi system was known as Sangita. It was a variety of the- 
atre which was dominated by music. In the Dest system the word Gita, a synonym of the 
word “gina”, was more prominently used but, as pointed out above, the science of music 
was treated within the sphere of Sangita-Sastra. But as the word “Sangita” gradually, 
came to be used to denote exclusively music, the term “Sangita-Sastra” began to mean the 
science of music and this is the sense the word has at the present time. 

An important fact which should be borne in mind is that, in early Indian thought, musi¢ 
includes only the melodic forms and all aspects related to melody. Drums and the com- 
positions meant for them would not be “music”. The drums are referred to as “instr- 
ments” (Vidya) and the compositions played on them are also called “instrumental” 
(Vidya). The word Vadya comes from the root “vad” to speak. Vadya is that which can- 
not on its own speak but which is made to speak. It is significant that the stringed and wind 
instruments are grouped with the voices, for their job is to produce melody. But then they 
too have to “be made to speak” and in this sense they are “vadya”. 

As a corollary to the above, one might add that all the Indian arts have tended to keep 
close to verbal expression. The themes for the visual and performing arts have always 
been stories from epic literature. And even in non-representational expression, speech of 
the semblance of speech has been considered vital. Pure dance is performed to meaning: 
less syllables set to music; the drums play “nonsense” syllables. Although the syllables 
are merely the vocal equivalents of the drum sounds, the drums are considered to be play- 
ing them, not the other way round. Melody instruments like the stringed and the wind only 

_ “reproduce” songs as they are “sung” Even in rare cases where there have been “inst 
mental” compositions conceived on the basis of the playing technique of a particular 
instrument, sung passages of meaningless syllables have been prescribed to be incorp 
rated, perhaps to keep them close to vocal expression and ultimately speech. (Nirgil® 
songs are of this type.) 

All the treatises on music have dealt strictly with music alone and have nothing to 4 


MUSICOLOGY IN INDIA 33 


on composers or performers. Music has always been analysed into three elements, name- 
ly the tonal (svara), the temporal (tala & laya) and the verbal (pada). Musical forms have 
been described with respect to these three aspects. The detailed description of a composi- 
tion-type, for instance, would divide it into various sections and prescribe the require- 
ments for melodic formation, text arrangement and durational structure of each. In this 
Tespect the treatises are more in the nature of manuals giving details of the composition- 
al type that is to be shaped. No illustrations or examples are furnished, especially in the 
ancient period, that is, prior to the eighth and ninth centuries. (It is relevant here to point 
out that the earliest “later” music to have survived and come down in the oral tradition 
does not date back beyond 200 to 250 years. But surprisingly the earliest known system, 
namely the Samagana belonging to the Vedic age, has come down in an unbroken tradi- 
tion, although there is no guarantee that the original music has survived unchanged.) 

The early treatises, in discussing the tones and their intervals, give details at the musi- 
cal level and rarely does the discussion go into acoustics or the physics of sound, name- 
ly, expressing intervals in terms of numbers of vibrations per time-unit or lengths of 
vibrating strings. Sruti, the unit of measure, was conceived of as the smallest interval dis- 
cemible by a trained ear. It is only in the 17th century (as in the works of Ahobala, 
Srinivasa and Hrdayanarayana Deva) that we first see tones being explained in terms of 
vibrating lengths of a stretched string. Just about the same period (Ragavibodha) we come 
across an attempt to improve the system of notation by introducing new symbols to denote 
graces attached to a note. Apart from the tones and intervals, the analysis of melody con- 
siders the types of melodic flow (varna), the ornamentations (alarhkara and gamaka), and 
the internal break-up of melodic phrases (vidari). 

The temporal aspect of music has been studied with respect to two factors. One is the 
thythm (laya) of the music, namely the patterns or metre formed by the durations of the 
syllables of the text or the durations of the tonal accents, stresses or pulses. The other of 
course is the Tala which is an external time framework within which the melodic form is 
shaped. 

The verbal element of music is treated under the following heads in the case of com- 
positions: 


a) the nature of theme (éiva - stuti, devata-stuti etc.) 
b) the language/s in which the text is set (samskrta, prakrta etc.) 


©) the types of meaningless syllables which occur in specific sections of a composition 
(upohana in gitaka-s, and afiga-s like svara, pata, tena etc. in prabandha-s) 


Apart from the details of form and content the other aspects that the treatises deal with 
are the sources of music production, namely voices and instruments. Regarding voices the 
discussion is related mainly to good and bad singing, good and bad voices. Regarding 
instruments detailed information on the materials to be used and methods of construction 
= given, The measurements are usually in rough units. The techniques involved in play- 
ing the instruments are mentioned sometimes. 

Thus the main treatises on music confine themselves to analysis of music and do not 
80 Into the lives of composers or performers of music or any performed compositions. 


34_N. RAMANATHAN 


There is also no light thrown on the setting in which music was made. And practically 
there is nothing at all written about the aesthetics of music. In the entire body of musico- 
logical literature in Samskrta there is just one author, Abhinavagupta —and he too isa 
commentator—who speaks of the aesthetics of music. Abhinavagupta’s commentary is on 
a book on dramaturgy, the earliest available on the subject, namely the Natyasastra’ by 
Bharatamuni’*. 

The author of this treatise devotes an entire chapter to an analytical description of the 
artistic import of drama. The chief aesthetic aim of drama is declared to be Rasa, which, 
in simple terms, is to present a picture of human emotion by enacting situations in which 
emotion emerges, within the framework of a story, for the disinterested enjoyment of the 
spectator. In the course of his commentary on the chapters on music, Abhinavagupta dis- 
cusses at great length the difference in the aesthetic aims of music as an independent art 
and of music as a limb of drama. This is perhaps the only, and undisputedly, an excellent 
piece of writing on the aesthetics of music. No writer prior to him or after him has delib- 
erated on the subject. 

But we do find writers setting out the aims of music at a metaphysical level. The prac- 
tice of music is said to lead one to liberation from the cycles of birth and death and in the 
end to union with the Absolute. The concept of the Absolute is an import from the disci- 
pline of philosophy and has been adapted to the sphere of music. There are other instances 
of “interdisciplinary” areas covered in the ancient writings. The human body is said to be 
the primary abode of music. In other words the ‘idea’ of music at a subtle level arises first 
within the human being. With that as the starting point, some authors have gone into 
detailed descriptions of the genesis and anatomy of the human body, perhaps to show off 
their knowledge also of medical science, namely, Ayurveda. Some authors include small 
sections on metrics and on the aesthetics of poetry. 

Some types of information not furnished by the treatises are added by commentaries 
written on the works at various points of time. It is only in the commentaries that we get 
to know about composers. And more rarely we get names of musicians too, But such 
details are available in plenty in secondary sources like drama, poetry, travelogue, histo 
ty, books on othér disciplines, records of court proceedings preserved in royal libraries, 
and inscriptions on the walls of temples and edifices commanded to be built by kings. The 
sculptures in temples give an idea of the musical instruments in vogue during the period. 
; It is necessary to mention in this context that the treatises in Samskrta were all written 
in verse form. The metres chosen were fairly simple so as to accommodate the technical 
terms and the complex details of description. This was resorted to because all the written 
works were learnt by rote and orally transmitted. The rhythm in the verse-form made it 
easy for one to learn and remember. Occasionally small passages in prose are seen. The 
commentaries, however, were prose works. The commentators took it upon themselves 10 
explain and interpret the text; discuss variant readings, variant recensions, and varying 
interpretations made by earlier commentators; supply parallel readings or ideas from other 
Seopa prises on the existence of differing musical traditions, practices, ide- 
ai os ; ee bs the relevance or otherwise of the text to contemporary practice. 
Pala st an unwritten law that a commentator should not have anything 

gatory to say on the principal work and should try to defend and explain, or explait 


MUSICOLOGY IN INDIA 35 


away, real or apparent inconsistencies that may exist—not unlike the obligation that a 
lawyer has towards his client. 

The above account more or less sums up the kind of information we meet with in musi- 
cological writing in the traditional Samskrta sources. This set the pattern for the writings 
in the regional language that started coming up from around the 14th century. It is only 
when western scholars entered the scene that there appeared a difference in the approach 
and treatment of the subject matter. William Jones was the earliest of the British scholars 
(1776) to write profusely about Indian drama and music. A number of others followed: 
Augustus Willard, C.R.Day, Fox Strangways, Rev. Popley, to name a few. There were 
scholars from other countries too, like Arnold Bake from The Netherlands and Alain 
Danielou from France. If the British established an Asiatic Society, the French set up one 
on Indology. The style of writing by foreign scholars was more in the nature of reporting 
observed facts and then making deductions or interpretations. Details about the venue of 
a performance, the atmosphere, the attire of the musician, as well descriptions of the 
music in the words of the musicians themselves are found in these books. For the first time 
in literature on Indian music, one finds musicians and composers being written about. 

The two ancient languages, Samskrta and Tamil, drew the attention of Indologists. 
Scholars interested in Indian music began to study the treatises written in the ancient period 
with the help of Panditas, the experts in the languages. Accounts of history based on the 
treatises were written. From the collections of manuscripts which began to be made, 
music scholars sifted out those relating to music and catalogues were prepared. English 
and French translations of music treatises started coming out. Researches in Veda led to 
a study of Simagana. 

The impact made by the foreign scholars on Indian studies was tremendous. As early 
as 1850, an institution for the understanding and study of music (Gayana Samaja) was 
Started in Pune in western India and the members pursued a systematic study of the vari- 
ous aspects of music. The methods of acoustics used to explain tones and intervals in 

- terms of vibrating lengths of strings and their logarithmic extensions, which began as a 
fascination, developed into an obsession. The ancient musical notes and intervals began 
to be interpreted in terms of these mathematical figures. 

The growing interest in learning Western classical music, especially instrumental, and 
the attempts to adopt or adapt western musical instruments to play Indian music, ushered 
in the use of staff notation to write Indian music. Indian scholars, especially from Bengal 
(Krishnadhan Bandhopadhyaya) and Madras (A.M.Cinnasvami Mudaliyar) started pub- 
lishing musical compositions in staff notation. Chinnasvami Mudaliyar even composed 
Counterpart melody for the left hand for compositions in South Indian music to be played 
on the piano. Indian scholars also began to take an interest in the Samskrta sources and 
Started translating and publishing the works themselves. And it is in this period that for 
the first time we find explicit mention and recognition of two systems of Indian classical 
music, the North Indian and the South Indian. 

The end of the 19th century saw the setting up of institutions for teaching music. With 
Untversities coming up in the mid-19th century, music gradually came to be included as 
One of the disciplines. Since the University system has an academic approach requiring a 
knowledge not only ‘of music but also ‘about’ music, theoretical information began to be 


36 N. RAMANATHAN 


provided. The early Indian publications for music students consisted of theoretical mate- 
rial and the notation of compositions prescribed in the syllabus. The theoretical material 
included descriptive accounts of melody, rhythm, musical forms and biographical mater- 
ial on the composers. A few prominent names that come up in this period are Visnu 
Narayan Bhatkhande in the North and P. Sambamiirti in the South. 

Bhatkhande's contribution has firstly been the collection of compositions belonging to dif- 
ferent genres that were in the-repertoire of musicians belonging to different schools. His 
method was the difficult one of learning a piece at one hearing and rendering it almost 
immediately into notation. The next step was to derive a theory for the existing practice 
and in this he relied on: 


a) the treatises in Samskrta and other languages which he studied with great diligence 
and sincerity; 

b) the writings of slightly earlier authors, both foreign and Indian; he was close to 
E. Clements (Western music) and Subbarama Diksitar (South Indian music); and 


c) his discussions with musicians and thinkers all around the country whom he sought 
out with great effort and eagerness (he had familiarised himself with South Indian 
music and its theory too.) 


With the knowledge thus gained, he wrote profusely on music, some of the books being 
in a very ‘reader-friendly’ style. He also did the musicological groundwork for the many 
music conferences that began to be arranged. 

P. Sambamiirti was greatly influenced by Bhatkhande's writings. He was also in touch 
with many Western music experts in India and had visited Europe. His desire to promote 
a liberal education can be seen in his quest to cover a wide area rather than go deeper into 
a limited field. He systematised the institutional curriculum and wrote and published 4 
number of graded books for practice and theory. He was instrumental in the starting of a 
number of music institutions for teaching as well as for research and even started one for 
teaching instrument-making and repair. 

Mention should also be made of Dr V. Raghavan, whose primary pursuit was Samskrta 
poetics and drama but whose contribution to the study of Samskrta works in music and 
dance was equally noteworthy. He was associated with the Music Academy, founded in 
Madras in the late 1920s, which in its annual conferences has musicolpgical papers read 
by reputed scholars from India and abroad; he also edited the journal of the Academy- 

In the post-1950 period, Indian musicology entered a new phase in its historical devel- 
opment. The immediate past had seen more of observing, reporting and interpretation; this 
Period witnessed a great thrust in the analysis of contemporary music as well as of his 
torical details. It saw greater exchange of knowledge between scholars in the East and 
West, and growing interest of American scholars in Indian music. The American scholats 
did not confine themselves to an academic study of music; most of them learnt to perform 
Indian music. When we turn to the writings by present-day Western scholars, we mett 
with a greater degree of objectivity. Usually nothing is taken for granted, as most of the 
books are addressed to foreign readers who are not familiar with the system. Westem™ 
scholars have done a serious study of the historical texts in Samskrta and other languages. 


MUSICOLOGY IN INDIA 37 


mostly with the assistance of Indian experts on the subject and the language. And it would 
not be any exaggeration to say that the first scholarly and lucid historical account on 
Indian music came from the pen of an American scholar, Dr. Harold Powers, whose arti- 
cle in the New Grove Dictionary under the entry ‘India’ is a masterpiece of its kind. 

From the side of Indians, first there was much text-book writing. Next, studies relating 
musicology with other disciplines—psychology, anthropology, physics, computers, math- 
ematics, sociology and education—attracted attention. This is an outcome of similar 
researches in the West. We see the impact of technology on South Indian music, espe- 
cially in research and design of musical instruments, for example: 


a) the use of synthetic materials like fibreglass in the construction of 
musical instruments; 


b) incorporation of electrical amplification aids; and 
¢) electronic models as substitutes for traditional instruments, e.g., 
electronic tambura. 


With the study of historical sources, literary and non-literary, gaining momentum, and 
the discovery of more manuscripts, newer interpretations came up. The view that the his- 
torical development of Indian music was not a single thread, but a strand made up of sev- 
eral intertwining threads, began to be accepted. Reconstruction of music from ancient 
notations was attempted. Historical studies about centres where music had flourished 
(e.g., Tafijivir) were taken up. But a kind of opening up new horizons in the study of the 
history of music, and especially of Samskrta treatises, came in the 1970s from Dr Mukund 
Lath whose work on the ancient Indian musical system for the first time covered the pre- 
10th century music in its entirety. Dr Lath was able to bring out distinctly the differences 
in the aesthetic aims of the various musical forms and elements. One could even say that 
his is the first authentic modern work on ancient music. 

In the late 1960s a separate Department of Musicology was instituted in the University 
at Varanasi. Prof Prem Lata Sharma the first Head of the Department, conceived of a very 
comprehensive and rather ambitious course in musicology, which included the study of 
historical texts, the theory of systems other than the Hindustani, South Indian, Western, 
and even the Eastern and West Asian musics. This centre has stimulated the overall pro- 
Motion of musicology in Indian universities. 

I now come to the last part of this essay where I would like to present my observations 
n musicological thinking in different periods. 

The earlier treatises were all more prescriptive than descriptive. The language has 
always been of the kind: “may you know it to be thus” or “this is how it should be done”. 
When there is an indication of a different tradition or of a different kind of practice, the 
authors would say: “Others say, do it this way”, or “some desire it to be done this way”. 

The tendency was to play down diversity. The commentators always try to Present the 
unity in the tradition rather than the diversity. Quite often we come across differences 
between two treatises in the description of a musical structure. Sometimes the differences 
are in the priority given to different musical elements. But the commentators invariably 
UY to resolve the differences, or conclude saying: “In reality the two are not different.” 


38 N. RAMANATHAN 


The above-mentioned tendency has penetrated so deep into the system that traditional 
Indian music literature never expressly declares the existence of distinct musical systems, 
We find that the music in the marga system is spoken of as having been derived from 
Samagina. This is carried to such an extent that certain rules which are meaningless in the 
Marga system are retained only because they were part of Samagana (as for instance the 
non-omissibility of the svara madhyama). Similarly the Desi system is spoken as a deriy- 
ative of Marga. It is now clearly seen how the theoretical concepts of Marga imposed oa 
the Desi undergo modifications leading to a totally different theoretical basis (as for 
instance the change from Grama to Mela). However, even in the 20th century authors 
(e. g. Subbarama Diksitar) have been quoting tonal systems of the 15th and 16th centuries, 
and quite often attributing the quotations to authors belonging to 10th century or Ist cen- 
tury A.D. This has led the music community into deluding itself that contemporary music 
has come down intact in an unbroken tradition from the period of Samaveda. This is not 
to say that nothing of the ancient has survived, but to point out that history is not one sin 
gle unbroken thread, 

A practice related to this was to start with theoretical details from the earlier works and 
continue with extra information. The modern reader, however, is given no inkling of how 
much of the ancient was still valid and which of the details really reflect contemporary 
practice. Thus in a treatise belonging to the 15th century we have details from treatises 
written in the Ist to the 13th century, and in works of the 17th century we have informa 
tion from texts of the 8th century, This could perhaps be due to the fact that there was a 
great reluctance to coin new technical terms. When musical practice underwent change, 
in most cases, the same term was retained though its connotation underwent change, Since 
the same terms continued, the later authors perhaps felt that there had not been any sub- 
stantial change in the theory, and so merely made additions or postscripts to the theoreti- 
cal tradition and found it difficult to leave out the earlier terms. This is true to some extent 
of the West, too, where to term "harmony" of the ancient Greeks is still used though its 
connotation has changed. The coining of a new term like “scale degree” would be unimag- 
inable in India. : 

The ancient scholars were given to excessive enumeration. It was almost an obsession 
with them to work out the maximum possible number of varied arrangements of a givel 
set of members, for instance the notes or units of tala, and to list them in some order. The 
next step would be to find a particular arrangement, given the serial number or find the 
serial number, given the arrangement. Not only did such attempts make the study drift 
away from music proper but they had a disastrous effect on musical practice, since ne¥ 
musical structures which were not so musical were conceived of to match the structures 
Spun out in theory. 

We also see a tendency to over-classify and over-categorise. Most of the aspects of 
music have been analysed and categorised on the basis of differing characteristics. Mor 
often than not a later category would be one which combined the characteristics of two of 
more of the earlier categories, €.g. 63 alamkara-s, 96 sthaya-s, of the ancients. In the mod- 
em Period the classification of musical instruments by Sambamoorthy is on similar lines. 

A significant and, to my mind, wise trait that we notice among the ancient scholats, 
which is perhaps not exclusive to the discipline of music, is to exclude any attempt 1 


MUSICOLOGY IN INDIA 39 


probe into the origin of musical elements or other related matters. The scholars have 
always clothed it in myth by attributing a divine origin to music and its parts. For instance, 
on the origin of musical instruments, a story is told that the goddess of music got angry 
with the other gods and hid herself in the trees, hence the trees produce music: meaning 
to say that musical instruments are made of wood. This might appear as begging the ques- 
tion, but I have always wondered if it is proper to raise the question of the “origin” of 
things. The “twang” of the hunter's bow giving rise to a musical instrument seems to date 
musical instruments chronologically later than hunting. 

Coming to the present day, what is the state of music theory and research? While at the 
level of categorising and classifying there has been a lot of activity, when it comes to deal- 
ing with concepts we find present-day theory inadequate. Even common terms like Raga 
and Tala have not been precisely and clearly defined or explained. And in the University 
curriculum neither the framing of the syllabus nor the writing of textbooks is done to con- : 
form to the level or the grade of student which it addresses. Researchers in India try to 
take on subjects similar to those being taken up in the West. At the student level this has 
created a lot of hurdles. First of all, an average student of Indian music is not versed in 
critical and probing analysis. The attitude of “questioning” is a bit alien to the nature of 
students coming from the traditional systems of learning which pervail in disciplines like 
Samskrta and music. . 

The musical material also poses problems. Take for instance the analysis of musica! 
compositions. In India composers till the beginning of this century did not notate their 
compositions. In other words, no original scores are available. Songs have come down 
only in the oral tradition. And since songs have been known to undergo changes in the 
hands of musicians, especially the concert artists, quite often analysis results in findings 
which are characteristic of the performer rather than of the composer. This is a rather 
problematic area. 

Further, research students and even some scholars fight shy of doing any comparative 
analysis. Even a mildly critical comment or a remark about a comparatively low degree 
of musicianship evident in a composer or an artist is taken as an affront. 

The medium of expression too has posed a big problem. Books and articles written in 
English quite often retain the technical terms which are in Samskrta. Some critics demand 
translation or the use of equivalent terms from Western music parlance. This too has not 
yielded satisfactory results, as an average Indian reader would wish to see the original 
words retained. In the case of the regional languages, most of them have evolved from 
Samskrta and the technical terms from Samskrta were adopted in toto. As a consequence, 
Musicological writings in regional languages make profuse use of the Samskrta terms 
without caring to define or explain them. This style leaves the reader in the dark. 

A danger to present-day musicology comes from the interdisciplinary area. Scholars 
belonging to different fields, who also have interest in music, find themselves drawn into 
research, in areas relating music as well as their own disciplines. But more often than not 
the findings they present in the music conferences have music only as a specimen, with 
all the technicalities related to the other disciplines. Thus papers which should have been 
tead in seminars on physics, botany, anthropology, psychology, mathematics, statistics 
and computer science are thrust on gullible and docile musicians. The fault is sometimes 


40 N. RAMANATHAN 


on the part of the musicologists. Quite often interest and loyalty shift from music to the 
text of the musical songs. We come across dissertations on topics like “The philosophy in 
the songs of composer X” or “The contribution of composer Y to the Bhakti Cult in India” 
being submitted in the Departments of Music, instead of the Departments of Philosophy 
or Religion. 

Historical study has continued to progress a great deal. The reading of treatises has 
gone beyond understanding and interpreting the details, and is now on to abstracting the 
musical thinking of different ages, which perhaps should be the ultimate aim of any his- 
torical research. 

I would like to conclude this essay citing two instances of definitions from ancient 
musicological writing which reflect a truly ‘musical’ approach to the presentation of con- 
cepts. 

The first is the definition of sound that is the basic material of music. The terms used 
in Indian musicology for sound is Nada. But Nada did not mean merely sound as a 
physical phenomenon but meant “musical sound”, i. e., sound as the basis of musical 
expression. In Indian thought, articulate sound, whether in speech or music, originates in 
the desire of the self for expression. It is this desire which causes the breath to unite with 
the fire in the human body and rise up as sound, becoming more and more manifest as it 
reaches the mouth. There are three stages before the idea in speech or music takes a 
concrete form. (While in speech articulation is syllabic, in music it is predominantly 
tonal.) Thus Nada has been defined as that sound at the root of which there is the desire 
to produce music. 

The other term is Svara. It stands for the fundamental units into which music of the 
melodic line is analysed, the rough equivalents for which in Western music would be note, 
tone or scale degree. Svara is defined as that which paints its own character on the listen- 
er’s mind. The mind begins to think music to the exclusion of all other thought. This def- 
inition drives home two points. One is that the parts of music too are endowed with the 
(musical) character of the whole, and that music does not evoke extra-musical feelings in 
a listener. The ideas of music as an art is also comprehended in this definition of svar. 

Thus Indian musicology at its best had as much beauty about it as music must have. 0 


NOTES 


1, SAMAGANA—Veda, lit. knowledge, is a large body of hymns and verse documented by seers over 5000 
years ago. Four such collections have come down, Reveda, Simaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. 
Samaveda/Samagina did not consist of any specific hymns but represented the singing of musical com- 
Positions which had the hymns of the other vedas for their text. 

_—— eared of theatrical presentation which included music and dance which is described in 
se "Natyasastra” (ca. 1st century B.C.) by Bharata. Th ition seems become extinct 
by the middle of the first millenium. r — ce 
adel theatrical Presentation dominated by music, which came down in a tradition different from that of 
ta but which has nevertheless been mentioned as an off-shoot of Marga. The tradition survived till 
about the 13th century before it bifurcated into distinct musical and dance genres. 


MUSICOLOGY IN INDIA 41 


TAMIL~Belonging to the southernmost part of India, it is a musical tradition totally different from Sama, 
Marga and DeSi. Literary evidence of this system is found for the first time in the Tamil language epic 
“Cilappatikaram” by Maigo (2nd century a.D.). Another early source for this tradition is the treatise 
“Paiicamarapu’” on music, drumming and dance by Arivanar (9th century). The tradition faded away after 
the 10th century and the Samskrta tradition took over gradually. 


2. It is, however, true that glimpses of the thinking on musical aesthetics are strewn here and there in treatises 
on Sarigitasastra. For example, three out of the five categories of musicians mentioned in Sarigita- 
Samyasara and Sangita-ratnakara viz. rafijaka, bhavuka and rasika are related to aesthetic experience (see 
“Levels of Aesthetic experience”, a short article by Dr. Prem Lata Sharma in Indian Musical Journal). The 
qualities of singers and instrumentalists also contain similar glimpses.